Productivity focus shifts to Twitter

by guest blogger Neville Hobson

During last summer, there was a spate of mainstream media commentary that social networks like Facebook serve little or no purpose from a business point of view.

Much reporting about companies banning Facebook in the workplace. We were even treated to a variety of opinion that said things like the cost of lost productivity in Australia was about A$5 billion annually, and $130 million a day in the UK.

twitterNow it’s the turn of Twitter to come under some scrutiny with a post by Irish entrepreneur Pat Phelan.

Never mind what are Twitter costs, what’s the cost of Twitter? asks Pat in a post that quotes some back-of-the-envelope calculations to arrive at a lost productivity total of 30 million hours per month.

There’s a monetary value attached to this:

[…] Our estimates for 2008 suggest @ a minimum lost productivity cost of $20/hour this will represent $300M/month so $900M for first quarter, $600M per month for 2nd quarter so $1.8B, $1.2b per month for 3rd quarter so $3.6b and $2.4b/month for 4th quarter so $7.2b.

In total Twitter should cost economy around $13.5b in 2008!! Isn’t that FB value?

But why only highlight a negative point? What about potential positives? Plenty of people see that there are positives.

I left a comment earlier today on Pat’s post which said in part:

[…] Even without any credible facts to hand that support any claim to show some business productivity benefit from using Twitter, lumping everything into a ‘lost productivity’ bucket makes no sense at all.

While it looks like there might be some tongue in cheek in Pat’s post, it does still highlight a valid issue – how do you look at rapidly-emerging communication channels such as Twitter from a business perspective: a waste of everyone’s time or with some productivity value?

I use Twitter. A lot. Jaiku too (which is where I most frequently see Pat). I’ve found that these tools are becoming quite an indispensable means of engaging with some people, a means that complements (and sometimes, replaces) some of the other ways in which I communicate with them, eg, phone, email and IM.

I guess I’m on Twitter and Jaiku on average an hour every day. That’s actually quite concise for being active in both networks. But I use TwitKu, a web-based tool that lets me interact with both simultaneously in side-by-side windows on my screen. A terrific time saver.

So let’s just run some numbers here:

  • 1 hour/day = 7 hours/week = 365 hours/year. Reverse the annual figure back into months = an average of roughly 30.4 hours/month.
  • Taking Pat’s $ figures, this would work out at a monetary value during the course of 2008 at $608 a month or $7,300.00 for the year.
  • That’s the minimum value of the time I spend on Twitter and Jaiku. Let’s split the value equally at $3,650.00 each per year.

Far from being a waste of productivity time, it looks like an absolute bargain.

If I can engage directly with people around the world via these tools in a way that lets me discuss thoughts, ideas, points, etc, and make quick decisions or actions that via other means (email, for instance) would take five or six times as long (meaning more $/£/€), then I’m going to continue doing it.

I see tools like Twitter as productivity enhancers, not wasters. $608 a month looks like pretty good productivity value to me.

Twitter (and Jaiku) isn’t about idle chit-chat – but it can be just that if you want it to be (and it is only that for some people).

For some highly credible examples of specific benefits from using Twitter, go and read Dan York and the 10 ways he’s learned to get value out of Twitter.

It all works for me as well.


#1 Cuts from FIR #308 : on 01.07.08 at 3:13 pm

[…] Twitter’s productivity cost […]

#2 John Adams on 09.11.08 at 11:13 am

The lost productivity argument is pointless for people who work in the tech industry. Employers should be paying tech workers for the free advice and support employees have in their professional networks of friends, all reachable at a moment’s notice on Twitter and other services.

Most of the time employees are hired based on their skill set, experience, and connections in the industry, which the employer can then exploit.

Blocking Twitter isn’t the solution, it’ll make things worse.

Disclosure: I work for Twitter.

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